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Southern slaveholders proudly pronounced themselves orthodox Christians, who accepted responsibility for the welfare of the people who worked for them. They proclaimed that their slaves enjoyed a better and more secure life than any laboring class in the world. Now, did it not follow that the lives of laborers of all races across the world would be immeasurably improved by their enslavement? In the Old South but in no other slave society a doctrine emerged among leading clergymen, politicians, and intellectuals-- “Slavery in the Abstract,” which declared enslavement the best possible condition for all labor regardless of race. They joined the Socialists, whom they studied, in believing that the free-labor system, wracked by worsening class warfare, was collapsing. A vital question: to what extent did the people of the several social classes of the South accept so extreme a doctrine? That question lies at the heart of this book.Read more
- A reformulation of the pro-slavery argument that reassesses the relation of race to class
- Asks how and why the southern pro-slavery argument had no parallel among the defenders of slavery elsewhere in the world
- Explores the extent and depth of the southern comparisons of slave and free labor at home and abroad
Reviews & endorsements
“In a study as brilliant as it is provocative, Fox-Genovese and Genovese make the case that many, if not most defenders of slavery in the late antebellum South defended the institution “in the abstract,” which is to say, as the proper condition for propertyless laborers regardless of race. Based on the authors’ unparalleled command of the sources, Slavery in White and Black will compel all students of the antebellum South to rethink their views. A magisterial work by two truly great historians.” -Peter A. Coclanis, Albert R. Newsome Professor of History, University of North Carolina-Chapel HillSee more reviews
“With Slavery in Black and White Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Eugene D. Genovese have made another monumental contribution to the understanding of the thought and belief of the antebellum South. By studying the views of southern thinkers regarding "Slavery in the Abstract" -the best conditions for all labor- and "free labor" in the North they describe their opinions about the past, present, and future of non-slave societies (North and South). These are voices and arguments that have too seldom been given the attention they merit and are essential for understanding the nature of American slavery and freedom.” -Stanley L. Engerman, John H. Munro Professor of Economics and Professor of History, University of Rochester
"Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Eugene D. Genovese bring to bear a lifetime's research and reflection in this dazzling piece of scholarship. Because it is impossible to understand pre-Civil War America without coming to grips with the importance of slaveholders and their views about labor, social organization, and race, Slavery in Black and White deserves, and surely will find, an audience far beyond the realm of specialists in southern history." -Gary W. Gallagher, Nau Professor of History, University of Virginia
“Antebellum southern planters were unlike any other slave owners around the world and through history. No others as insistently justified slavery as the answer to the social question--the relation of labor to capital. Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Eugene Genovese have sought more insistently and trenchantly than any other scholars to detail and dissect this body of southern thought. This magisterial volume is the culmination of their research and is a monument to a collaboration that continued over thirty-five years, until Fox-Genovese's death in January 2007, just before the completion of this book.” - David Moltke-Hansen, Research Associate, Center for the Study of the American South, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
“A remarkable work. Deeply authoritative, balanced, and incisive, it offers powerful answers to the central problem faced by southern slaveholding society: how did masters’ commitment to slavery function under increasing challenge from the nineteenth-century's move toward capitalist social and economic relations? The slaveholders' efforts-- successful and otherwise-- to come to terms with their new world constitutes the interpretive thread binding this fabulous book.” -Mark M. Smith, Carolina Distinguished Professor of History, University of South Carolina
“Eugene Genovese’s previous writings invariably revealed his brilliance, rigorous argumentation--and provocativeness. Slavery in White and Black proves no exception. Exploring the arguments for what he calls “Slavery in the Abstract,” Genovese finds that, defying conventional free-labor wisdom, proslavery intellectuals seriously considered the enslavement of whites along with blacks. That system, they contested, met all moral, economic, and Christian standards more effectively than wage labor under capitalism. All in all, this study of a romantic antebellum concept is probing, objective, and thoroughly challenging. No reader of Southern History should be without it.” -Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Richard J. Milbauer Professor Emeritus, University of Florida and Visiting Scholar, Johns Hopkins University
"...this new volume offers a more expansive investigation into the intellectual contortions of southerners who went to ridiculous lengths in denying that personal servitude could never exist outside their advocacy of black slavery..." -Peter S. Carmichael, Virginia Magazine
"...no scholar or student can rightly claim the mantle of historian without having read this culmination of the work of two lives...of arguably the most influential historians of the antebellum South." -Christopher Phillips, Journal of American History
"The work of these scholars is distinguished by two qualities: deep research combined with wide erudition and a sophisticated Marxist interpretation that includes respect, even admiration, for the slaveholders' critique of western capitalism, anticapitalist values, and paternalism...Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Eugene D. Genovese have contributed another important and valuable study in which they delineate more fully the mind of the slaveholding class and its tragic, baneful dedication to human bondage as the basis of a good society."
Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, Paul D. Escott, Wake Forest University
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- Date Published: October 2008
- format: Hardback
- isbn: 9780521897006
- length: 332 pages
- dimensions: 242 x 164 x 26 mm
- weight: 0.7kg
- availability: In stock
Table of Contents
1. The impending collapse of capitalism
2. Hewers of wood, drawers of water
3. Travelers to the south, southerners abroad
4. The squaring of circles
5. The appeal to social theory
6. Perceptions and realities.
Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses
- Conference in the Middle Period
- Race and Ethnicity in U.S.
- Readings in American History
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